On Sunday night, the IMC in Urbana hosted a metal show. The headline act was Neckbeard Deathcamp, a band that’s been making waves in the metal scene lately. Neckbeard Deathcamp was originally formed as a satirical group, though the passion for the music and the musicianship is absolutely genuine. Neckbeard Deathcamp takes that skill and applies it to albums like White Nationalism is for Basement Dwelling Losers — a record full of songs that take specific aim at a particular slice of the black metal pie. This subgenre, known as NSBM, or National Socialist Black Metal, is a style of black metal, and encompasses a worrying (and by worrying I mean absolutely ugly and abhorrent) set of ideals including white nationalism, fascism, racism, etc. Neckbeard Deathcamp uses musical and performance tropes of NSBM, but infuses their songs with lyrics that cut back at the genre reflexively, making fun of, provoking, and berating genuine participants in the NSBM scene.
The band is relatively new, coming on the scene in 2018, releasing their above mentioned album in July. They quickly became a viral sensation on the internet, and were snapped up by the Prosthetic Records label. They’re booked for several festivals this year, and predictably, more “serious” members of the black metal scene (by which i mean those who are not satire based, but actually believe in a set of harmful, backwards principles that degrade anyone that isn’t a white man who also believes in those same principles) are furious that they’re being billed with Neckbeard Deathcamp. Teratism, a big name in the black metal scene, has in fact refused to play the Stygian Rights Festival, specifically because they balk at Neckbeard Deathcamp (read more on that here).
So anyway, THESE are the guys I went to go see on Sunday night, and it was a thought-provoking evening, and a loud one. Neckbeard Deathcamp is comprised of three members: a drummer, a guitarist and a vocalist. They set up their performance with the musicians on the stage, and the singer down on the floor with the audience. It was a compelling visual. They played to a small but enthusiastic crowd, and brought huge energy. I’ll be the first to say that I’m not a metal fan — I don’t hate it, I appreciate the intense skill and artistry of it, but I tend toward softer sounds, and a lot of the skill in metal is lost on my ears because of sheer loudness. I went to the obligatory metal shows in high school, when I was angry and angsty and weird (I’m not saying you’re weird if you like metal, I’m saying I was definitely weird in high school) and I needed an outlet for my feelings, and other people making loud sounds in a room that looked like a scene from a horror movie soothed me. But I’m 15 years removed from that time, and I have a harder time connecting now to music that is basically too loud to hear.
I still totally respect that people DO connect with it though, and it made me think about how opposing things like racism, sexism, and fascism (among other isms) is a multi-pronged tactic, how each one of us has the responsibility to fight those things as we’re best able. I was initially inclined to be a bit dismissive of Neckbeard Deathcamp’s efforts in this area, for a couple of reasons: they are essentially anonymous in their presentation, masked and with pseudonyms, and with the distortion up so high on the vocals that the lyrics aren’t just difficult to make out, they’re impossible to hear. If I didn’t know what I was going to see, I wouldn’t have a ton of indicators that I was seeing a band making a concerted effort to fight the same things that so much of black metal supports. But after I thought for about 30 more seconds about it, I climbed down off of my hill and realized that I’m not their target audience.
The fact that other black metal bands are refusing the spotlight that a festival performance would give them, specifically because they refuse to be billed with Neckbeard Deathcamp, demonstrates that the band IS being effective in their section of the fight: that festival has one more band screaming against racism and one fewer band screaming for it. That’s movement. It’s slow, because all of our social progress seems destined to be slow and semi-circular — but at least it’s happening. Booking Neckbeard Deathcamp and ideologically aligned opening acts at the IMC sends a message about the community more broadly, as well: there is active attempt to make our music scene in C-U safer and more inclusive, one that lifts up bands who are working to combat the rampant violence and prejudice that’s all around us. I’m interested to see the evolution of this; I hope to see our music scene become more widely varied — in addition to giving a platform to bands fighting systems of oppression, making a concerted effort to give equal stage time to artists of color, queer artists, artists who are differently-abled in all ways, and other marginalized sections of our community here.